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Congress Must Pass Legislation Protecting Parental Rights — And Soon

Kate Anderson Sharon Supp
The U.S. Capitol

With school back in session and a growing litany of parental rights abuses, the time has come for Congress to pass a federal bill defining, protecting, and enforcing the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, care and education of their children.

For 100 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed this bedrock principle of the American family. Parents have the fundamental right and duty to raise and nurture their children without government interference.

The court’s discussion of parental rights indicates that these rights receive the same high protection as free speech and the free exercise of religion, requiring government to show a compelling interest that outweighs parental rights in any circumstance in which it hasn’t respected them.

But not all states or courts treat parental rights with the deference and respect they deserve. And now — in unprecedented fashion and with increasing fervor — parental rights are being severely undermined at every level of government.

At the local level, school boards are passing parental exclusion policies that require employees to hide from parents their children’s struggles at school with their gender identity. Some schools are even using secret “gender support plans,” which outline how the school will “socially transition” a child by using a different name and pronouns and treating the child as the opposite sex at school — without their parents’ knowledge or even over their objections.

At the state level, some states — including CaliforniaMinnesota and Washington — are passing anti-parent legislation that could result in loving parents losing custody of their children just because they are hesitant to allow their child to undergo harmful hormonal and surgical interventions based on a new (and likely temporary) gender identity. Note that those interventions can have permanent consequences, including even lifelong infertility.

At the federal level, the Biden administration is poised to gut Title IX’s 50-year-old protections intended specifically for females. If that’s not bad enough, these rule changes could then be used to justify concealing critical information from parents about their children’s gender confusion and treating students as the opposite sex without parental involvement.

These laws and policies impose a one-size-fits-all solution which fails to account for the unique, individual needs of each child. They are driven by ideology that falsely tells children they were born in the wrong body.

These laws and policies elevate subjective feelings over objective biology. They villainize parents without cause, creating an unwarranted wedge between vulnerable children and the parents whose wisdom and support they need to navigate complex issues regarding sex and gender.

Fortunately, some states have taken action to protect the rights of parents to direct their child’s education and health care. In Virginia, as a result of Gov. Glenn Younkin honoring his commitment to promote parental involvement in schools, the state Board of Education recently adopted model education policies that rightly put parents back in the driver’s seat. Parents have to elect, in writing, to change their child’s name or pronouns at school, and they can opt their child out from sharing intimate spaces (like bathrooms and locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex. The policy also recognizes and respects the many Virginia teachers who want to work openly with parents, not hide this one issue from them.

Even some localities, such as Chino Valley, Calif., are stepping up for parental rights. The school board there just passed a parental notification policy requiring parents be notified if their child requests to be treated as the opposite sex, is significantly injured, expresses suicidality or attempts suicide, or is bullied or harassed.

These common-sense policies properly acknowledge the essential role parents play in the lives and education of their children. And they follow the foundational principles of Accountability, Choice, and Transparency outlined in the Promise to America’s Parents, a roadmap to help lawmakers safeguard children by protecting parental rights.

Parents, not the government, are the primary decisionmakers for their children, because parents know and love their children best. Regardless of race, faith or political party, parents need schools to be accountable so that they will honor parents’ right to raise and care for their children. Parents need choice so they can ensure their child gets the education and care they deem best for their unique child. And parents need transparency about what their children are experiencing so they can make well-informed decisions for them.

Other states and localities should follow the examples of Virginia and Chino Valley. The much-needed trust between parents and educators must be restored so that schools and families can work together toward every student’s flourishing.

In the meantime, Congress needs to resolve any confusion and ensure that all parents are able to guide their children, walk through difficult situations with them, and care for them to the best of their ability without government interference.

The tide eroding our country’s history and tradition of parental rights must be stemmed. If ever there were a time for Congress to act, it’s now.

Kate Anderson
Kate Anderson
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Parental Rights
Kate Anderson serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Parental Rights.
Sharon Supp, Senior Research Analyst
Sharon Supp
Senior Research Analyst
Sharon Supp serves as Senior Research Analyst at Alliance Defending Freedom